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What is a personality disorder?

What is a personality disorder?

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A personality disorder is defined as: “a deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behaviour of a specified kind, typically apparent by the time of adolescence, causing long-term difficulties in personal relationships or in functioning in society.”

Put simply, a personality disorder is a mental health condition that affects the way a person thinks, behaves and engages with other people. Those with the condition may find their attitudes and behaviours differ from what might be considered ‘normal’ and so social interaction can become difficult. It can be tough to make friends and form relationships; sufferers may become wary or even scared of having to spend time with other people.

Who is affected?

Personality disorders usually become apparent during adolescence and the early adult years, but they do sometimes start in childhood. It is estimated that one in 20 of the English population are affected by personality disorders at any given time.


What causes personality disorders isn’t yet fully known. It is thought that childhood experiences, including neglect or abuse, are often contributing factors, as people don’t learn to deal with life in the same way as their peers. Neurological problems and genetic factors may also play a part.


Obviously not everyone with a personality disorder will display the same signs, but some common indications to look out for include:

What is a personality disorder?

Types of personality disorder

Several types of personality disorder are recognised and these are broadly categorised into A, B and C clusters:

Cluster A

People with a Cluster A personality disorder tend to have difficulty interacting with and relating to others. They may display what others would call odd or strange behaviour and might be described as being eccentric. Examples of Cluster A personality disorders include schizotypal, schizoid and paranoid personality disorders.

Cluster B

This group includes disorders where dramatic and often erratic emotional responses are central. People with Cluster B personality disorders often struggle to control their feelings. Examples include borderline, antisocial, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders.

Cluster C

Anxious and fearful feelings are typical in patients with a Cluster C personality disorder. These fears can result in antisocial and withdrawn behaviour. Examples include avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.


In many cases, patients will display signs of more than one type of personality disorder. Some people with mild symptoms will be able to carry on with extra support, while more serious cases will usually need specialist treatment.

Personality disorders affect people in different ways, so treatment will be tailored to each individual. The majority of people requiring treatment will be referred for counselling or psychotherapy, which usually lasts for around six months before being reviewed. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and group therapy are also considered effective in the treatment of personality disorders. There are currently no medications recommended for managing personality disorders. However, patients are sometimes prescribed medications to help with associated problems such as depression or anxiety.







About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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